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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘New’

New Oversite for State’s Prosecutor

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Yehuda Weinstein, the government’s legal adviser announced Friday that a new government body will be established in October to oversee and review the actions and decisions of the State’s prosecutor office. According the report in Makor Rishon, the new office will review the transparency and ethics of the State’s prosecutor.

 

New, Severe Traffic Enforcement in Israel

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

New measures to enforce driving rules announced by the Israel Police Traffic Division, the Knesset, and the State Prosecutor’s office this week will mean severe punishments for driving infractions, and a significantly increased likelihood of being caught committing them.

New speed and traffic light cameras will be installed throughout the country as part of the new crackdown.  Additionally, it will become easier for police to revoke drivers’ licenses for prolonged periods and will impose harsher penalties on many driving offenses.

The traffic cameras can operate in all weather conditions and times of day, and can photograph at a rate of less than a second between pictures, meaning driving breaches can be fined at any time of day or weather, and can capture images of any car on the road at any given time, as well as while turning at intersections.

A report by the Globes online business magazine informed readers that fines will be issued beginning at 10% above the speed limit, with a 31km/h (19.26 mph) rate above the limit resulting in an automatic NIS 750 fine (about $197).

Notices of fines incurred, or traffic court dates set, will be sent to violators in the mail.

A recent report by the State Comptroller’s office noted that 40% of road fatalities in Israel are occur to non-Jewish citizens, primarily Arabs, despite the fact that they are only 20% of the population.  The report blamed human error, road quality in pre-dominantly Arab areas, and the poor condition of the drivers’ cars.

Old and New: Podwal’s Altneuschul Paroches

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Yeshiva University Museum – Center for Jewish History 15 West 16th Street, NYC; 212-294 8330 www.yumuseum.org Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11am-5pm; $6 adults, $4 children Until January 15, 2012

Mark Podwal is a busy, busy man. When I wrote that in these pages in September 2010 it is now clear I didn’t know the half of it…witness his current exhibition at Yeshiva University Museum. In what is effectively a love song to his adopted city, Prague, Podwal has had the delicious opportunity to give her Jewish community a spanking new Chanukah gift; the new Torah curtain, shulchan covers and Torah mantles. For a Jewish artist and lover of Prague like Podwal it doesn’t get any better than that.

Curator Zachary Paul Levine’s exhibition brilliantly contextualizes Podwal’s textile creations, both within the artist’s own work and the historical background of the ancient Jewish community. Additionally, Levine produced and edited “Steps Closer to Prague: Mark Podwal,” a 9-minute video companion on YouTube that not only includes considerable commentary by the artist himself, but also explores the working relationship he developed with the New York custom embroidery company Penn and Fletcher. From Podwal’s original drawings to digital transfers and computer driven machine-made embroidery finally appliquéd on the final textile, each step is lovingly documented. The combination is a captivating and intense course in Jewish visual symbols, Czech Jewish history and contemporary Jewish art.

Touching Heaven (1981) pen and ink by Mark Podwal Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Podwal’s interest in Prague and its Jewish community dates back to the late 1970s when he was researching material for a book with Elie Weisel on the mythical Golem of Prague. His fascination at first centered on the old Jewish cemetery, used from 1439 until 1787, and home to an estimated 12,000 tombstones and perhaps as many as 100,000 burials. This eerie hodgepodge of Jewish history, piety and life prompted many drawings and paintings by Podwal, often morphing into fantastic visions of multiple golems and claustrophobic ghetto houses. His drawings of the cemetery are the beginning of the exhibition’s tale that traces many of the visual elements of these current textiles back to his earlier work.

Golem and cemetery images surround an open model of the seven hundred year-old Altneuschul to familiarize us with the new home of Podwal’s textiles. We see how the shul is effectively divided into three sections by two massive pillars, reminiscent of legendary columns Boaz and Jachin found at the entrance of the First Temple. The front section was for the holy, i.e. prayer, while the remaining rear sections were utilized for communal affairs, dominated by the enormous medieval guild banner, proudly bearing the Star of David, evidently the earliest use of this symbol in a synagogue. Also noted on the accompanying text panels are the numerous symbolic references throughout the shul; the 12 grapevines on the valance over the Aron symbolizing the 12 tribes; the 12 windows to the outside world reflecting the same; and the abbreviated quotations of Psalms emblazoned on the walls. Echoes of all these elements are found in Podwel’s Altneuschul textiles.

The Old New Synagogue (1980) pen and ink by Mark Podwal Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Prague’s Jewish community has been on Podwal’s mind for decades. Two drawings exemplify his curious meditations. Touching Heaven is brazen in its assertion that the Jewish community of Prague is somehow elevated over all others in their city by the mere fact of their Judaism. Towering over a multitude of spires (Prague is known as City of a Hundred Spires), Podwal has shown the little Jewish ghetto, itself dominated by the Altneuschul, ensconced on a massive menorah towering over the city. This audacious image leads one naturally to Podwal’s more localized Old-New Synagogue that exposes the real agenda in these images. Here we see the Altneuschul in realistic profile with hundreds of Hebrew letters ascending to heaven. In itself not at all surprising since we believe that all of our prayers, especially those uttered in shul, ascend to heaven; nonetheless, here Podwal touches on a particular piece of Prague Jewish belief. According to legend the Altneuschul was itself built with stones from the Second Temple and in the time of the Messiah is destined to eventually return to Jerusalem. It is therefore especially connected with Jerusalem and the Heavenly realm.

Torah Covers (2011) by Mark Podwal Fabricated by Penn and Fletcher Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

As audacious a belief as this seems, it actually is understandable in light of another legend (claimed to be ancient but probably a 19th century creation) of the Golem that was created by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, chief Rabbi of Prague. The legend describes a deeply pious Jew mystically giving life to a creature crafted from earth to defend the threatened Jews of Prague. Much like God created Man, this human creation is deeply rooted in the holy and depicts man as potentially God-like as a mere mortal could possibly become. Hence Prague’s closeness to Heaven itself.

Skewing The Shalit Deal, New York Times-Style

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

I’ve been reading The New York Times pretty much every single day since I was ten years old. That’s more than a half-century by now.

Along the way, I’ve been informed, inspired, and occasionally infuriated.

Last week, there were several causes for infuriation.

The first came on Monday, in the form of four photographs that appeared on the first page of the International section.

The largest of the four, 6 x 9 inches, was at the top of the page and immediately caught the reader’s attention. It was a poignant picture of a little girl leaning against a largely empty wall and staring upward, as the caption explained, to a small picture of her grandfather.

Walid Aqel, 48, was to be among those Palestinian prisoners released in the exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006.

The paper failed to mention, in the caption or elsewhere, that Aqel was a founder of Hamas’s military wing, had much Israeli blood on his hands, and was sentenced by Israel to life imprisonment.

Instead, the overriding impression conveyed was that Aqel was, above all, a grandfather, whose adorable granddaughter was pining for his return from his Israeli captors.

Then, just below the photo was the article itself – “Israel Names 477 to Go Free in Trade for Hamas-Held Soldier.” And beneath the article were three small photos, each measuring 2 x 3 inches, which conveyed images of the human havoc wreaked in Israel by some of those Palestinians to be released in the deal.

Because of their diminutive size and busy images, those photos didn’t draw the eye easily, though they should have been the heart of the story. After all, they conveyed the nature of the terrorists to be freed, helping readers understand how gut-wrenching the decision must have been for Israel.

Yet those photos, together totaling 18 square inches, were submerged, while the single, stark photo at the top, 54 square inches, dominated.

Then came a Times editorial, “Gilad Shalit’s Release,” on Wednesday. It was among the most upsetting I’ve ever read.

The day after Shalit was returned to Israel, with 477 Palestinian prisoners sent to Gaza, the West Bank, and elsewhere, and a second group to be freed soon, the paper chose to go after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet again.

He’s been a favorite whipping boy for the editorial writers since he assumed office in 2009.

They give him little credit for what he’s done to advance prospects for peace and Palestinian development – the ten-month settlement freeze, the lifting of blockades and checkpoints on the West Bank, oft-expressed support for a two-state outcome, and help for the rising Palestinian economy. And they spare no criticism for his alleged misdeeds.

But this editorial took the cake, darkly suggesting the Shalit deal was really a Machiavellian plot to further weaken chances for peace — and the blame, predictably, was laid at Netanyahu’s doorstep.

Of course, the editorial could have gone in other directions.

It might have dwelled on the extraordinary importance Israel attaches to human life, in this case the life of one soldier. It could have focused on the nature of Israeli democracy, where Gilad Shalit’s parents never stopped mobilizing on behalf of their son, and created a national movement to liberate him, irrespective of the cost.

It might have reminded the world of the contrast between Shalit’s captivity – more than five years without a single visit by the International Committee of the Red Cross, much less his family – and that of the Palestinian prisoners, none of whom surely would have wished to trade their diet, access to the outside world and, indeed, to sunlight, or opportunities for education with what Shalit endured.

A Jewish Lip: New book On Lipman Emanuel Pike Explores Baseball Player’s Career, Religious Identity

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King


By Richard Michelson; illustrated by Zachary Pullen


Sleeping Bear Press, Feb. 2011, $16.95



 

 


Early in Ernest Thayer’s poem Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888, a “sickly silence” has fallen on the patrons of the game. But when “mighty Casey,” with his “sneer curled” lip and defiance gleaming in his eye, comes to the plate, 5,000 throats and tongues cheer for him and 10,000 eyes focus on his every move.

 

Casey is such a fan favorite that when he takes the first two pitches – both called strikes – spectators yell out “kill the umpire!” and “fraud!” Casey has to silence both chants and motions to the pitcher to ensure that the game can proceed. Casey confidently stands his ground, as his scorn turns to hate. But however beloved and intimidating he may have been, Casey ends the game by striking out.

 

The same could not be said of the figure of Lipman Pike – Lip – illustrated by Zachary Pullen in Richard Michelson’s new book, Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King.

 

On page 17 of the 32-page picture book, Lip, born Lipman Emanuel Pike in 1845, holds a bat in his hand as he poses in front of a dramatic sky worthy of the Hudson River School. Lip, who incidentally bats left, is mustachioed and dressed in the palette of a park ranger (rather than a Texas Ranger). With his black socks pulled up and hunched over to greet the incoming pitch, Lip – though his knuckles are not lined up properly on his bat – is sure to deliver on that much anticipated hit that would later elude Casey.

 


 

However many words Pullen’s illustration of Lip is worth, Michelson’s words beside the picture are quite sobering. Though Lip helped the Philadelphia Athletics win 23 of 25 games, and though he hit six home runs in one game and was the team’s best player, Lip’s teammates scorned him for being a professional athlete – perhaps the league’s first paid player. The left fielder added, “I hear that Pike’s a Jew. How can we trust him when we play against Brooklyn?” So, Michelson writes, the Athletics voted Lip off the team.

 

Even Lip’s mother had been skeptical when her son told her the Athletics’ captain had offered him $20 a week to play baseball (his dad was offering $2 a day to work in his store). “Who ever heard of anyone being paid to chase a ball?” Lip’s mom demanded. For the boy who “couldn’t stand still” in his father’s shop – playing the biblical entrepreneur Zebulon to the Issachar of his brother Boaz, always studying for his bar mitzvah in the shop’s back room – it did seem farfetched to be playing “Base” professionally.

 


Lipman Pike

 

 

In Michelson’s version of the story, Lip’s parents had argued about whether their sons should be traipsing around Brooklyn playing Base. “Not my sons!” Mrs. Pike told her husband of Lip and Boaz. “If grown lads chased after a leather ball in Europe, people would call them childish. Boaz is almost a man, and when Lip finishes his chores, he should exercise his mind.”

 

Mr. Pike had disagreed. “I won’t let Base interfere with the boys’ education But in America even the smartest young men chase balls like silly boys. We want our children to fit in with their neighbors, not to live like foreigners in their birthplace.”

 


 

Seven days after his bar mitzvah, Lip, with his dad’s approval, joined a junior baseball league.  “A couple of ladies in lawn chairs were picnicking in the park and their young sons were climbing nearby trees, but Lip imagined that everybody in Brooklyn was preparing to watch the match. He felt butterflies rise in his stomach and his knees go weak,” writes Michelson. It was no stadium packed for Casey, but so began Lip’s career, which, each year, averaged 20 homeruns, a .321 batting average and 332 runs batted in.

 

Not only did Lip play for the Brooklyn Atlantics, Philadelphia Athletics, New York Mutuals, Troy Haymakers, Baltimore Canaries, Hartford Dark Blues, St. Louis Brown Stockings, St. Louis Brown Stockings, Cincinnati Reds, Providence Grays, Worcester Ruby Legs and New York Metropolitans, but he also played for the infamous Boss Tweed.

 

Pullen’s illustration of Lip’s first day shows the boy – whose face is still awkward and not yet that of a man – standing on a mount preparing to swing at an incoming baseball. But though Lip is the subject of the painting, the background is arguably more interesting. Pullen paints several children at play – some even hanging from a tree – as well as some chassidic-looking figures, maybe a father and son, who are the only figures who are oblivious to the game that is ensuing. The two figures walk toward the right side of the painting. Perhaps the boy is off to his bar mitzvah lesson and perhaps his father agrees with Mrs. Pike.

 


 

But Lip’s attention zeroes in on the baseball – which due to the perspective of the painting is larger than life. It is impossible to tell from the image if Lip has his head covered (he is hatless), but, according to James L. Terry’s “Long before the Dodgers: baseball in Brooklyn, 1855-1884,” the Brooklyn Eagle reported in 1893, after Lip died, that “Many wealthy Hebrews and men high in political and old time baseball circles attended the funeral service.”

 

Michelson’s story ends with Lip, after having defeated a horse in a race, striking a majestic pose – looking up at the heavens, where the baseball is surely headed, a la many iconic baseball photographs – with the crowd cheering. Of course, one fight Lip couldn’t lick was heart disease and he died at age 48.

 

In an author’s note, Michelson sheds some light on the history behind the story. According to Michelson, “a small but growing wave of Jews” was leaving Europe to come to America when Lip grew up (his family was Dutch). Since they were mostly literate and had experience as merchants, the Jewish immigrants were “mostly” welcomed. “Organized anti-Semitism was not a major concern, as the number of Jewish immigrants was miniscule compared to the number of Irish and German immigrants,” Michelson adds. Around his bar mitzvah time, when he started playing baseball, about half of the population of Brooklyn was foreign born, and it was not until after the Civil War that Jews were singled out for not “fitting in.”

 

Emanuel Pike, Lip’s father, did in fact encourage his sons to assimilate (via baseball), “while still retaining pride in their Jewish identity,” according to Michelson. Waving that bat in the air on page 26 and 27, Lip looks like he’s not only watching the ball fly through the heavens, but is also focusing on the negative space surrounding the ball. Perhaps at that moment he was even uttering a silent prayer.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.


 


All images courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/a-jewish-lip-new-book-on-lipman-emanuel-pike-explores-baseball-players-career-religious-identity-2/2011/03/02/

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